By Charlie Sacchetti
It never ceases to amaze me how I can remember certain words, said to me long ago, from friends and relatives. They may have been phrases uttered during times of stress or joy or just plain old conversation. Yet for some reason, they have continued to live in my memory and they pop up involuntarily, every once in a while, when it seems apropos to the situation.
For instance, my mother would frequently say, “You get what you pay for,” when she would buy something for the house. Back then, Wanamaker’s was her store of choice. Although they were a bit more pricy than other sources when it came to furniture or other big-ticket items, Mom always would believe that she got her best bang for the buck at that store. The service and guarantees they offered were good investments and for her, money well spent. Her pet phrase came to mind 45 years ago when it was time for my new bride and me to buy bedroom and dining room furniture. We spent a little more than we wanted to but we still have that furniture today and it looks great. Thanks, Mom.
In the early ’70s, my old boss at Temple University’s Athletic Department was Ernie Casale, the best and most heralded athletic director the school has ever known. He would say to me, at the time the youngest guy on his staff, “When you do something, do it first class.” That’s just how he conducted himself and ran his department. I remembered those words, over the years, and came to the understanding that Ernie meant that what we do professionally reflects directly upon how we are perceived by others. If we do things in a slipshod manner, we cannot command the respect of others. Those words helped me to be more thorough in my professional life and especially in my subsequent sales career.
A few years later, another Temple boss Lloyd Eslinger, who was the director of facilities, gave me what may be the most important advice in very few words. As I was struggling with a personnel problem involving one of my assistants, Lloyd said, “When you’re faced with two possible decisions,
usually the one that is the toughest to make is the right one.” Over the years, I have found this to be true and I have shared these words of advice with my friends and family.
In the early ’80s I was privileged to be mentored by a wonderful man, Lamarr Dobbs. Lamarr was the corporate sales manager of our small company that manufactured specialty and industrial chemicals. He had a unique management style and his perception of all situations led me to believe that he could actually read my mind! He always was there if I needed help and pushed me to my limits in order to allow me to succeed. He had a great, dry sense of humor and he would tell all of the guys that if we could give him an excuse that he hadn’t heard before, he’d give us a dollar! He gave me a line one day that I never forgot. When I first started working in the field with him, I made the common mistake of talking to the customer when I should have been listening. I blew the sale and as I walked with him back to my car, I tried to justify what happened with a plausible answer. He just looked at me, smiled and said, “That’s not worth a dollar.” I learned, from that moment on, to talk less and listen more.
As I think of all of these words of wisdom, handed down to me from many different sources, I especially remember some words uttered to me by my dear father, Henry. Dad was strong, tough and self-educated. His words of “enlightenment” were always strongly considered by my sister, Kathy, and me as you might expect in a typical Italian-American home of the 1950s. I was 17 and had just received my driver’s permit. I was only permitted to drive if accompanied by a licensed driver in the front seat. So on this particular Saturday morning, I asked Dad if we could go for a spin, which would mark our maiden voyage. I was happy to hear his response in the affirmative.
I backed our Ford Fairlane out of our Southwest Philly rowhome’s garage. Upon entering Buist Avenue, I made a right turn. With my light green, as I attempted to make a right turn at the corner of 65th Street, a guy in a red Mustang ran the red light forcing me to jam on the brakes. In my father’s inimitable style, he uttered the words that live in me today and I remember frequently, especially during my outside sales days when it was common for me to drive over 35,000 miles per year. Not sounding at all like Ward Cleaver or Cliff Huxtable, Dad looked at me and uttered these profound words in a way that clearly reflected his South Philly upbringing:
“Kid, when you drive you gotta to have eyes in your ass.”
Granted the anatomical impossibility, those words have been proven to be true many times in the 50-plus years that have passed.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books,“It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org